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THIS 2011 ELECTION NEEDS AN OCTOPUS

By NBF News

On this very page last week, I had consulted my own Octopus Steve and predicted that whoever won the Germany/Spain semi-final bout might as well consider the 2010 World Cup already in the kitty, and would only be waiting for the Sunday final showdown as mere formality. I had also hazarded a guess that such a winner would likely come up against Holland in the final.

Painfully, however, everyone seems to be talking only of Octopus Paul - without a single mention of Octopus Steve. But the heartwarming part of it all, however, is that everyone now agreed that a somewhat inconsequential octopus - dreaded only by those who dare the deepest depth of the ocean - has suddenly come to play a part in the affairs of men.

I was not surprised at the development. And I don't think anyone who has been following recent research findings would be surprised.

We were already beginning to ascribe some degree of intellect to the 8-legged member. Yes, the octopuses are intelligent - more intelligent than some humans (I did not say politicians o!), even as we arrogate the tag of 'higher animal' to ourselves.

It all started a few months back. The CNN devoted several hours talking about a certain octopus that was gathering coconut shells and building itself a home out of them to protect and give it some privacy on the ocean floor.

If you doubted that we'd all along underrated the brainpower of the octopus, then the outcome of the South Africa 2010 World Cup rounded off last Sunday would make you do a rethink.

And now that the World Cup is over, what do we now do with this obviously psychic sea creature (or its undoubtedly clairvoyant owners)?

When I raised this issue in the office earlier in the week, it became very clear that I am not the only person thinking along this line. My colleague and partner in mischievous thoughts, Funke Egbemode, took over the conversation. Expectedly, her thoughts were even more outlandish than mine. She also spoke of how readers had been sending SMS texts, making suggestions. We disagreed on so many things, but at the end of it all, we agreed that Nigerian politics can do a great lot with an octopus - if not to organise free and fair election, at least, it can do a transparent selection.

How do I mean? Even though Paul the Octopus can conveniently claim to be a 'German', it did not allow its vision to be blurred by blind patriotism. It told the Germans that they would not win the World Cup and they did not. It saw that they would lose to Spain and told them so. And they lost. Nobody accused it of not being patriotic. There is no mention of sedition, deportation or declaring it a persona non-grata.

Ultimately, it told us nearly four days to the kick-off of the final match that the Spaniards were only just waiting for formality of the final match, that the cup was already theirs. And, as they say in the Bible, it came to pass.

There was no mago-mago. No drunk pastor, evangelist, primate or marsupial told us that the situation could be changed if we prayed and fasted (yes, that is the escape window our seers here always leave to manoeuvre there way out every time their predictions fall flat.

So, with this several bull's-eye scored by the octopus, many of us have been thinking: Isn't there a way we can bring this Octopus to help us answer a few nagging questions of our nationhood and our democracy, etc?

For one, since we now know that in Goodluck Jonathan we have a president who is man enough to reverse his decisions whenever emergent realities make it necessary - instead of watching everything go to ruin because 'a General can not change his word' - we can ask him to do Prof. Attahiru Jega a thank-you letter, to thank him for considering us serious enough to accept our INEC chairman job, and then relieve him of the job.

And even before Jega finds his way back to BUK, we would promptly invite the octopus to come tell us who'd be president. We can then just swear him in instead of spending money going through all the hassle of election and all.

For our next World Cup campaign, before we set out on another wild goose chase, we'd ask the octopus if we'd qualify. If it says 'yes', then we could hire a coach and begin to play qualifiers. But if it says 'no', then we'd sit back and watch others play and save ourselves unnecessary high blood pressure. If FIFA asks us, we would tell Sepp Blatter that Octopus Paul said it is of no use. But if FIFA (like it has stubbornly refused to use goal-line technology in officiating matches) insists on not taking Octopus Paul serious and threatens to ban us, we would ask Octopus if FIFA would make real its threat. If the answer is in the affirmative, then we could just send our home-based Eagles to go represent us, not bothering with importing our foreign pros, and cut down our expenses from the onset, knowing that we would not qualify, anyway. We could even decide to save the cost of travels by insisting that our teams travel to all their away matches by road - irrespective of whether they are playing in Egypt, Togo or Ethiopia.

But the biggest use of octopus would be in our politics. We would no longer put our politicians through the rigors of campaign and all - if anybody campaigns, it would be just to get his party's ticket. For the election proper, we'd just construct ballot boxes and put the names and photos of the candidates there. Whosoever's box the 8-legged creature comes to finally rest on top is declared winner. We could take it to the states and local governments too.

It would be a big relief for even we the voters. Instead of going to queue under sun and rain to cast votes that would eventually not count, we could enlist the octopus. We could call it Secret Octopus Open Option.

But my fear with this option is that the AC people would still drag the poor thing to the tribunal. They would regale us with tales of how its eight limbs amounted to double (or in this case, multiple) thumb-printing. And Adrian Forty would confirm it.

But you still can't blame them, especially if it is a PDP government that would go fetch the octopus. They could pour concentrated salt into its cage and demobilise it and come back to tell us that it can only function in developed countries of the West. They could get a fake one or do something that would scatter the brain of the mollusc, especially now that we hear that octopuses are building homes with coconut shells. They could give the octopus a Ghana-Must-Go bagful of coconut shells and the thing will begin to play hide-and-seek inside the shells. You can't put anything past these PDP people.

But I have also thought out a plan for this eventuality: instead of bringing the octopus here, we would send our candidates and their agents to Germany to do the octopus thing there.

Yes, it would be very expensive, considering the number of people who'd be shuttling between Nigeria and Germany, but it would still be cheaper than holding election, hiring thugs, buying guns, bribing INEC officials, entering naked oath with godfathers to put their rigging machinery at our candidate's disposal and, at the end, still dragging our country dangerously close to the cliff of disintegration, with the crisis thereof.

And talking of disintegration, we could even put the question of our continued co-existence as a nation to the octopus. We could build two boxes. While we put 'United One Nigeria' in one box, we'll put 'Soviet Option' in the other. Whichever the octopus rests on, so be it.

But the fear here again is the PDP: if the octopus rests on a box that is not agreeable with them, they would go to the Supreme Court to seek an interpretation that the octopus only sits on a box to tell us that there is no road in that direction. That the box it left in the clear is actually the option it wants us to take.

If you complain and point to how it is done elsewhere, like in the World Cup, they would remind you that ours is home-grown democracy and that the octopus must adapt to the realities of the Third World. They would also remind you that it took America more than 200 years to get to where it is today and that we are only just 50 years old and must be allowed to make all the mistakes the rest of the world stopped making since the Stone Age.

Despite all these pitfalls, however, I think we should still give this octopus a trial. Or what do you think? Will Jonathan run? Will he not run? Will the North do more than blow hot air? Can all these old men making noise about zoning or no zoning really stop or project anybody? Will the South East ever produce the president of Nigeria? Will Bafarawa take back Sokoto? Will Obasanjo, Daniel and Bankole ever make up? These are questions that only an octopus can answer.